Flickr faithful foam over faulty feature

It’s been like watching a pot bubble over on the stove today, watching the pissed-off Flickr fans — including prominent blogger and Zooomr CEO Thomas Hawk — venting about having to switch to a Yahoo login. A simple enough thing, right? Stop using the Flickr login and start using a Yahoo one. I did it months ago, and it really wasn’t a big deal. I had a Yahoo login from way back when I used to use My Yahoo as a home page, and so it was a slam-dunk.

Many of the people on the forums at Flickr have said the same thing — big deal, get over it you big babies, Flickr is owned by Yahoo now, they’ve been saying for months that this would happen, etc., etc. And all of that is true. But it also doesn’t help the die-hard Flickr fans from the “Old Skool” who have been there since it was a startup (started in Vancouver, incidentally) and feel like they are getting the short end of the stick from big, bad Yahoo.

flickr protest.jpg

This has obviously created an opportunity for some other photo sites, one of which is offering Flickr “refugees” a discount to move their accounts over, but more than anything the 10 pages of comments on the Flickr forum about the move is a sign of how big a mountain users can make out of what Yahoo and Flickr no doubt see as a programming molehill. To them, no doubt, it is a simple data management shift, but to users, it is an emotional train-wreck.

My friend Scott Karp has a very insightful post on the whole mess. As he puts it, if you live by the community, you will die by the community. If your service relies on the “user-generated content” of millions of people, then every move you make will be watched by some sizeable proportion of those users, and the success or failure of those moves — and, theoretically, of your entire company — is dependent on how you handle them. Fair warning.

P.S. At this point, nothing whatsoever about the 10 pages or the blog uproar on the Flickr blog. And there’s some back-and-forth between Anil Dash of SixApart and Thomas Hawk over the Flickr changes on Anil’s blog. Factory Joe (Chris Messina) has some thoughts as well, including the fact that he thinks this shows the need for an OpenID standard, and Tara says community isn’t just a big love-in all the time, and that’s just the way it is.

Technorati foot-shooting again: WTF?

So I saw Steve Rubel’s post about Technorati launching a new buzz-tracking, Digg-like thing and the first thing I thought was “WTF?” I know that’s the name of it — or was, since it’s apparently been yanked now — but I meant it in the original blogosphere/instant messaging sense of “what the f**?” Among other things, why would Technorati bother trying to reproduce something like Digg this late in the game?

Unlike some people, I’m totally okay with the name (which apparently stands for “Where’s The Fire?”). It plays off the other meaning of WTF, which could add to the buzz, and I think it’s kind of funny. But why? And not just why launch something that appears to duplicate Digg — like dozens of other copycat sites, many of which use the Pligg open-source Digg platform — but why launch something that seems to have taken its servers down with it?

After all, it’s not as though Technorati has been sailing along as smooth as glass. There continue to be regular system issues, unexplained and sudden down-time, complaints about technorati’s blog-ranking numbers and so on. As someone commented at Darren Rowse’s Problogger: “How about they fix everything else that’s broken on their site before launching a new service?” A fair point.


The site seems to have re-launched, with an explanation from Dave Sifry about how it works. If I understand it correctly, it seems that Technorati is asking users to write an explanation of why a particular search topic or subject is important, and then other users can vote that explanation up or down.

Microsoft Vista launch is cold as ice

As part of the more than $500-million worth of advertising and marketing that Microsoft has been doing to promote Vista, the company paid to build a state-of-the-art home made entirely out of ice in the public square at the corner of Yonge and Dundas in Toronto (no doubt they got the idea from this place).


A local blog called Torontoist (part of the placeblogging network started by Gothamist) has some pictures and a description of the 1,800-square-foot “home,” which comes complete with a working ice toilet-paper-holder, an ice bed and even an ice microwave (presumably good for only one use). The home took 270,000 pounds of ice to construct, and has computers running Vista and Office 2007.

Classic comment from the website: “I can’t help but think that this is analogous to how my computer is going to freeze if I try to install Vista.” That’s marketing for you.

Scoble says he’s biased — does it matter?

It started with Robert Scoble of Podtech complaining that Engadget didn’t link to his Intel video (which I wrote about here, complete with comments from Scoble), but it has turned into a discussion about whether that video was compromised by the fact that Intel is a sponsor of Podtech. As Scoble clarified in the comments on my post — and in the comments on his post — Intel paid for one of the other videos on the site, but not for his. However, Intel is a prominent sponsor.

So is that a conflict of interest, or is it just the old “this is new media, we play by different rules” thing all over again? Is Scoble a reporter, or is he something else? And given the tangled conflicts over the Intel video, how should we look at Scoble when he flies around with John Edwards as part of his pre-election campaign?


In his discussion with commenters — one of the main benefits of Robert’s blog, as far as I’m concerned — Scoble admits that the site could have disclosed its ties to Intel more prominently, and that he has effectively been “used” by CEOs in the same way Intel used him. Then he admits that he could be perceived by some as being biased in doing the Intel video because he is biased:

Did I say my work is unbiased? I think the whole point of what I’ve been doing here for six years is telling you I +am+ biased.

Would Intel invite me back if I just made it look bad? Probably not. But that’s not what I do. If I think something is really bad I just don’t go.

This is an important thing to remember. What Scoble is saying is that he doesn’t want to be seen as a journalist, in the sense of being unbiased or objective. The bottom line, I think, is that Scoble is someone who is enthusiastic about technology and about technology companies. And there’s nothing wrong with that — provided everyone knows what that means.

In another comment at Scoble’s blog, Matt Kelly of Podtech News says that he was invited to the Auto Show by General Motors, who paid for his flights and his hotels and meals. It’s obvious that he sees nothing wrong with that — which I would argue is part of the problem. Car magazines might do that, but that’s why they aren’t considered “real” journalism.

Microsoft still wants to control your wallet

So Bill Gates, musing aloud during one of the sessions at the exclusive, celebrity-studded think-tank known as Davos, says Microsoft would like to get into the micro-payments game — maybe cut MasterCard and Visa out of a little action, elbow its way into the PayPal and Google Checkout business, that kind of thing. Pretty big news, right? Sure. Except for the fact that Microsoft has wanted to accomplish said goal for about the last decade or so.

Ever use Microsoft Passport (now Windows Live ID)? You sign in once with your Hotmail name and then get access to all sorts of wonderful places on the Web… that is, provided they are controlled by Microsoft. The plan to make Passport a universal ID card as well as a payment portal never really took off. Why? Because people don’t like to play with Microsoft unless they have to, that’s why. In fact, they would apparently rather get taken to the cleaners by MasterCard and Visa.


More recently, Microsoft has been establishing a “points”-based system of payment, both for Xbox Live features and possibly to compensate people for sharing music over the Zune network (assuming anyone ever does that, of course). Although he was irritatingly vague about what the company has in mind, Mr. Gates seemed to be suggesting that this points system could become a micro-payment scheme for the Web.

Let’s be frank. This has virtually zero chance of ever becoming a reality. Don’t get me wrong — I think micro-payments are a great idea, and they would help any number of fledgling Web-based businesses make a living, up to and including blogs. But there are two problems with a Microsoft points system: The first is the word “Microsoft,” and the second is the word “points.”

Points-based systems are much like the system used at casinos, or the payment card used at some restaurants — just confusing enough that you forget how much you are really spending. And the odds of Microsoft somehow convincing thousands or tens of thousands of small retailers and businesses to sign up for a Microsoft payment system? A billion to one.

Scoble’s Achilles heel is video

Video is the future of the Internet, right? Everybody knows that — Google buys YouTube, the Skype boys launch Joost, video blogs are the bomb, etc., etc. And there’s no question that a well-done video clip can be incredibly affecting, and moving. But is it a great information-delivery tool? I would argue that it is not. Visual? Yes. Emotionally powerful? Yes. Packed with information that is easily understandable? No — or at least very rarely.

In a nutshell, I think that is part of Scoble’s much-talked about problem with Engadget. Forget about whether Engadget has a policy of not linking to blogs, or has it in for Scoble, or is getting too big for its britches and thinks it is part of the mainstream media now, or whatever the former Microsoft blogger is getting at in his rant about how Engadget didn’t link to his “scoop” about Intel’s new chip process.


Stay with me here. Scoble initially said that Engadget ignored his video for Podtech, but as Engadget writer Ryan Block describes it in his long post on the topic, an Engadget staffer looked at Scoble’s video and didn’t see enough newsworthy content to justify a link. The bottom line, I think, is that Scoble basically toured Intel’s plant and got some video of employees in clean-room “bunny suits,” etc. and a comment about the new 45-nanometer process, and that’s pretty much it.

Is the new process important for the future of computing? Sure it is. But the fact is that the New York Times story, which Scoble craps on everybody for linking to instead of him, does a better job of explaining why it’s important than Scoble’s videos do. In a lot of ways, his videos make a nice accessory to the story — but they don’t *tell* the story. At least not for me. But then, I’m a word guy, so maybe I’m biased. But James Robertson agrees with me (and so does SmugMug CEO Don MacAskill), and TDavid thinks Scoble could use some time with a video editor (although Robert disagrees in the comments below).

A call goes out: Pay the Tubers!

Like many others in the blogosphere — including Ashkan Karbasfrooshan at HipMojo, Allan Stern at CenterNetworks, Fred Wilson over at A VC, and my pal Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0 — I’m intrigued by Chad Hurley’s comments to the crowd of tall foreheads at Davos that YouTube plans to start paying users. The only questions that remain, of course, are a) pay whom? and b) How?

According to the Beeb, billionaire surfer dude Hurley said that YouTube is planning pre-roll ads, possibly as short as three seconds — something iFilm and some other sites do, and a solution I don’t think is that bad, despite all the moaning and hyperventilating from some quarters about how this would ruin the YouTube “experience,” etc., etc. Will the site offer AdSense and other monetization tools as well, or tiers of service of some kind?


Scott seems to think that it’s hypocritical of YouTube to build a gigantic enterprise based on other peoples’ content, then make a boatload of money by selling it to Google, and then start doling out nickels and dimes to those who actually own the content. To which I would respond: So what?

The people who had that content weren’t maximizing the use of it on the Interweb, so YouTube saw a market need and filled it — and thereby created value that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. Good for them. Now they can help those content owners monetize their content more easily. Everybody wins.

And I would have a tendency to agree with Chad when he says in the video clip that YouTube decided it was better to hold off paying people until the community had developed first. Introducing commerce too early would likely have given YouTube a much different feeling, and likely would have stunted the growth of the site as the go-to spot for uploading and sharing video. But ultimately, it had to happen. It will be interesting to see how YouTube does it.

Happy birthday to the computer virus

Wow, time really flies, doesn’t it? It appears that today is the 25th anniversary of the first computer “virus” to be observed in the wild. And we know that because Rich Skrenta — now co-founder and CEO of Topix — got a call from an enterprising reporter who remembered that Rich created that virus, the legendary “Elk Cloner” virus, when he was a 15-year-old high-school kid goofing around with an Apple II. Yes, you read that right: irony of all ironies, the first virus found in the wild infected Apple computers.


According to the Wikipedia entry, Elk Cloner would hide in the RAM on an Apple machine and wait for a floppy disk to be inserted, then copy itself to the disk. On the 50th boot from that disk, the screen would be wiped clean and the following message would appear to taunt the user:

Elk Cloner: The program with a personality

It will get on all your disks
It will infiltrate your chips
Yes it’s Cloner!

It will stick to you like glue
It will modify RAM too
Send in the Cloner!

Mention of the virus made it into Scientific American magazine and even Time magazine. Since there were no anti-virus programs, the virus spread relatively rapidly. The only way to immunize a disk was to manually stamp the virus’s ID onto a particular sector of the disk (track 2 around sector 8 according to this page at Skrenta’s site). And the PC virus? Came along four years later — the so-called “Brain” virus, courtesy of two brothers from Pakistan.

A Wikipedia dedicated to shopping

Although it often gets dismissed as a boring, Web 1.0 retailer at heart, Amazon has been doing a lot more innovative things than it gets credit for — including its very Web 2.0-ish S3 distributed storage service (which more startups should make use of) and its EC2 virtual server offering. And now, Amazon has jumped into the wiki business as well, with the “Amapedia,” a wiki devoted to products, which was discovered by the resourceful Rogers Cadenhead.

It’s still so new that there’s very little content in the Amapedia, but it has a very clean interface — arguably even cleaner and easier to follow than Wikipedia’s. There’s a featured product on the landing page, and then a big “tag cloud” of keywords. When you click on something like “camera,” you get taken to a main page with a description of the product, and on the left-hand side there is a breakdown of the cameras in various sub-categories.


Obviously, there are going to be issues with something like Amapedia, as there are with Wikipedia, which has been involved in all sorts of scandals that have to do with accuracy, vandalism, and accusations of elitism. As a small example, the Amapedia entry for camera says the word is “Italian for room.” Close, but no cigar. Camera is actually Latin for room, although Italian is derived from Latin.

With the Microsoft/Wikipedia kerfuffle so fresh, I wonder how long before companies start paying people to make entries in Amapedia (I give it about a month). The new service is apparently an expansion of the “product wikis” that Amazon launched awhile back, and the info from them has already been incorporated into Amapedia, according to Read/Write Web.

Rogers Cadenhead, meanwhile — who says that in honour of having discovered Amapedia first, he should be made king of this new fiefdom and addressed as “Amazimbo” — wonders whether Amazon will compensate those who contribute the most to its entries, with a discount coupon or some variation thereon. Not a bad idea. And does it matter that a product-oriented wiki already exists?

Hillary Clinton gets her Web 2.0 on

Either someone smart is working with Senator — and would-be POTUS — Hillary Clinton, or she is a lot hipper to the Web 2.0 jive than I might have thought. According to Search Engine Journal, Hillary (or someone from her team) posted a question about health-care on Yahoo Answers, and last time I looked she had gotten more than 33,000 responses in just a little over 24 hours.

The question she has asked is this: “Based on your own family’s experience, what do you think we should do to improve health care in America?” Underneath the question, the site makes it clear that hosting the question isn’t meant to express support for any particular party (maybe Barack Obama should post a question asking “Should I change my name or sue CNN for calling me Osama?”). This is interesting stuff — call it Politics 2.0.


Obviously, there’s some publicity value to having the question appear on Yahoo Answers, since I would imagine other people are going to notice it and write about it other than Search Engine Journal, Greg Sterling of Screenwerk and me. Incidentally, as far as I can tell Ms. Clinton now holds the record for most responses to a question on Yahoo, beating both Oprah and physicist Stephen Hawking, whose flirtation with Yahoo Answers I wrote about on my media blog awhile back.

Still, apart from the pure publicity value, and the street cred she gets for being down with the Web 2.0 kids, I would agree with Greg that there is definitely something interesting going on here. Where it will lead (if anywhere) remains to be seen.